All About Espalier: Best Ideas & Tutorials

Create a productive edible garden and backyard orchard with espalier fruit trees: best varieties, training ideas, design patterns, how-to tutorials, etc!

Do you love edible gardening and growing your own food? How about magical living structures in the garden like these? Welcome to the world of espalier fruit trees, which offer a winning combination of beauty, functionality, and productivity, making them a must-have for many home garden enthusiasts.

Create a productive garden with espalier fruit trees & flower shrubs: best varieties, training ideas, design patterns, how-to tutorials
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In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the benefits of espalier gardening, the best fruit tree varieties for training, beautiful patterns and designs inspired by horticultural traditions from around the world, and essential techniques and tools for shaping and maintaining espalier trees.

beautiful garden with espalier apple and pear trees

Get ready to elevate your outdoor space and backyard orchard with the charm and productivity of espalier fruit trees. You may also love our complete guide to vegetable gardening for beginners from raised beds and pathways, to creative container edible garden and greenhouse ideas.

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Benefits of growing espaliered fruit trees 

growing espaliered fruit trees 
Image source

Space-saving: Espalier trees are perfect for urban gardens or small backyards. By training them to grow flat against a wall or fence, you can make the most out of limited garden space.

Aesthetic Appeal: With their carefully pruned branches and artistic designs, they become living works of art, enhancing the visual appeal of your outdoor space.

training espalier trees 

Productive Yield: Despite their compact size, espalier trees are surprisingly prolific when it comes to fruit production. Their carefully managed branches allow for better sunlight exposure and airflow, resulting in healthier trees and a bumper crop of delicious fruits.

Easy Maintenance: Pruning and caring for espalier trees may seem daunting at first, but with proper training and regular maintenance, you’ll spend less time on upkeep and more time enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Beautiful espalier patterns design ideas 

horizontal cordon espalier pattern

The horizontal cordon is the most popular classic espalier pattern. Here branches are trained to grow horizontally out of one central trunk. A multi-tier cordon generally has three to five tiers of branches. Cordon patterns are great for living fences. Via Here She Grows

The candelabra ( similar to Palmette Verrier ) is a beautiful design in which branches are shaped into a U as the horizontal branches are turned up at the ends. 

fan espalier patterns design ideas 

The fan espalier pattern features multiple lateral branches radiating out from a central point, resembling the shape of a fan. This pattern works really well for fruit trees like figs and cherries. Images source: 1 | 2

Belgian fence espalier

The Belgian fence pattern features multiple diagonal branches trained in opposite directions, creating a crisscrossing lattice effect. This pattern looks striking against a wall or as a free-standing living fence. Via Flicker

apple espalier arches

Other creative variations include circular espalier, diagonal espalier and espalier arches. By training the branches of two or more trees to meet and form an overhead canopy, you can create a magical entrance to your garden with espaliered arches like this apple tunnel!

Each of these espalier patterns offers a unique aesthetic appeal for any garden style and space constraints. 

Which fruit trees are good for espalier training?

Fan shape espaliered peach tree

Stone fruits, like peaches and nectarines can be easily shaped into fan patterns. These patterns not only look aesthetically pleasing but also maximize sun exposure, promoting healthier fruit production. Fan shape espaliered peach tree tutorial at Herbidacious.

espaliered pear against stone wall in the garden

Apples and pears, with their various dwarf varieties, are among the best choices for espalier training. You can train them into horizontal cordons, as well as fan, candelabra and other creative patterns. Look at how beautiful this espaliered pear looks through the seasons at Amanda Brooks‘ garden.

flowering espaliered fruit tree

For warmer climates, figs, pomegranates, and citrus trees such as lemons and oranges are fantastic choices for espalier.

Pomegranates, with their beautiful, large fruits, can be espaliered into cordon or candelabra shapes, adding a touch of elegance to any garden wall. Citrus trees are great for fan shape espalier, providing both a visual and aromatic delight.

Figs are especially forgiving and can thrive in a fan or cordon design, which helps in managing their typically vigorous growth. Image source: 1 | 2

 Pyracantha and sour cherry trained as espalier

In addition to popular fruit trees, you can also create a beautiful garden wall with flowering shrubs and trees. Here we have Pyracantha and sour cherry trained as espalier. Image source: 1 | 2

How to train espalier trees 

How to train espalier trees 

Pruning: A good time for pruning is during the dormant season, which is late winter to early spring, before new growth begins. This timing allows you to shape the tree’s structure while minimizing stress and promoting vigorous growth once the growing season starts. Remove any unwanted branches, suckers, or water sprouts, and selectively prune to encourage lateral branching and the desired espalier form.

espalier training ideas and design patterns

Tying and Training: As the branches of your espalier tree grow, regularly check and adjust their position along the support structure. Use soft, flexible ties to secure the branches, avoiding materials that may cause damage or constriction. Source

cordon espalier

Tie the branches loosely to allow for expansion and growth. You can perform this task throughout the growing season, but pay extra attention during periods of active growth to prevent branches from becoming misaligned or crowded. Via Flickr

Support structure ideas

When constructing DIY support structures for espalier trees, ensure that the materials used are durable, weather-resistant, and capable of bearing the weight of the trees as they mature. Try these great DIY garden trellis ideas for your espalier project!

 espalier fence with cables support

Additionally, consider the aesthetic appeal and architectural style of your garden when choosing the design of your support structure. Image source: 1 | 2

DIY support structures for espalier trees

Wire Trellis: Use eye bolts or screw eyes to anchor the wire at regular intervals. Stretch the wire taut and secure it firmly to create horizontal lines for training the branches of your espalier trees. Source

Wooden Grid Trellis: The grid pattern provides ample support for training the branches of your espalier trees while adding a decorative touch to your garden.

So, whether you’re looking to grow juicy apples in a small backyard or vibrant lemons in a sunny courtyard, espaliers not only conserve space but also create a living art piece, transforming a plain wall or fence into a lush, productive landscape, while adding a unique touch to your garden. Image source: 1 | 2

Happy growing! See you soon!

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